• The Lakers badly needed a win on Friday — they did just enough to hold off the Brooklyn Nets for a 102-99 victory.

    Coach Luke Walton made some pivotal decisions that helped the Lakers secure the win, starting Josh Hart for Tyler Ennis and choosing to play Brandon Ingram as the starting point guard (on offense). Both moves paid off in spades as Ingram distributed 10 assists to his teammates, while generally doing a good job pushing the ball and initiating the offense. Hart was even better, tallying 15 points, a career-high 14 rebounds, two assists, one steal and a clutch 3-pointer to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. He tweeted after the game that he channeled his inner Charles Barkley — Laker fans were happy he did.

    Los Angeles came into the game wanting to emphasize the defensive end of the court but failed to do so for the first half of the game, conceding 57 points to the Nets on 55.3 percent shooting. The beginning of the third quarter was no better as the Nets went on a 16-6 run, led by Spencer Dinwiddie who scored 11 of those points and 14 in the quarter. Brooklyn would eventually take their largest lead at the 4:45 mark of the third, a nine-point lead at 78-69.

    From there the story for the rest of the game was the Lakers defense as they tightened the screws on that end of the ball, allowing only seven points for the rest of the third quarter. Los Angeles continued their tremendous effort through the fourth as the Nets managed only 14 points in the entire period, including a five-minute scoreless stretch.

    The Lakers used an 11-0 run to take a 96-87 lead before the Nets were able to draw within one point at 96-95 with an 8-0 run of their own.  Hart then broke the Lakers out of their slump with his pivotal 3-pointer to give them the lead for good. Los Angeles held on by a hair as the Nets missed an opportunity to tie the game on a last second attempt by Joe Harris.

    Brook Lopez had a bounce-back outing in his return to Brooklyn for the first time since being traded this summer. He was greeted by a standing ovation from the fans, an Oreo cake by arena security and a tribute video dedicated to his long illustrious career as a Net. He really seemed to relish the moment and was clearly uplifted by the experience.  His performance improved compared to his last outing; he played 28 minutes (compared to nine in the last game) and filled up the stat sheet with 19 points, three rebounds and three huge blocks on 8-of-13 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. One of his blocks was a monster block on a dunk attempt by Nets’ rookie center Jarrett Allen who played a nice game in his own right, contributing 20 points, five rebounds, two steals, one block and a plus-6 rating.

    Ingram had a great game as the Lakers’ point guard, just missing a triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. However, he was slow to leave the trainer’s room after the game due to a strained groin.

    Julius Randle had another solid game for the Lakers with 19 points, 12 rebounds and two assists.

    Kyle Kuzma continued his struggles since his monster game against the Celtics, finishing the game with six points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal on 3-of-9 shooting.

    D’Angelo Russell against his former team was supposed to be the second story line of the evening but he didn’t play his best game, contributing only 15 points, four rebounds and three assists on an inefficient 7-of-18 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3-point range.

    He was out produced by starting point guard Dinwiddie who continued his breakout campaign with 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds on 9-of-19 shooting from the field.

    Stats and Observations

    • The Lakers dominated this game from a rebounding perspective, grabbing 56 rebounds compared to 38 for the Nets. They dominated the offensive glass in particular, with 18 offensive rebounds while doing an excellent job patrolling their defensive glass, allowing only five offensive rebounds to Brooklyn.
    • One shocking statistic was that the Lakers actually outshot an opponent from the free throw line (barely), converting 14-of-20 (70 percent) vs. 16-of-23 (69.6 percent) for the Nets.
    • Los Angeles continued to excel at scoring points in the paint with 56, while also maintaining their season long struggle of defending the paint, allowing 52 points.
    • The Lakers committed eight fouls in the first quarter alone as they struggled to play good individual defense and contain penetration. They did a much better time as the game went on, in particular in the fourth quarter, committing 10 fouls for the entire rest of the game.
    • Brooklyn went into the fourth quarter shooting 52.5 percent on 31-of-59 from the field. The Lakers held them to 14 fourth quarter points on 6-of-23 from the field, reducing their overall percentage to 45.1 percent from the field.
    • The Lakers came into the game with a 97.8 defensive rating in their wins, fourth in the NBA. Midway through the third quarter it appeared as though the Lakers defense would once again let them down but they did a great job to keep the Nets under 100 points to secure the win.

    Up Next

    The Lakers head to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder on Super Bowl Sunday.

    Los Angeles will attempt to put together a better showing than in their two previous losses to the Thunder, two blowouts by an average of 30.5 points.

    Oklahoma City is led by Paul George and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. However, in the last meeting, it was Steven Adams who dominated the Lakers by outmuscling and outhustling the Lakers; setting a physical tone that the Lakers were unable to match.

    The Lakers reportedly will be targeting George during the offseason so the performance of their young players, as well as any related comments by George, will be under the microscope during this matchup.

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